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Statement of the PACE assessment mission for the Constitutional referendum in Azerbaijan

The Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), upon the invitation of the Azerbaijani authorities, decided to send an ad hoc committee to conduct an assessment mission of the 26 September Constitutional referendum in Azerbaijan.

According to Article 29 of the “Guidelines for election observation” (“Rules of procedure of the Assembly”), “the ad hoc committee will report its findings in the form of a memorandum by its Chairperson to the Bureau”. This statement concerns our initial findings for the 26 September referendum. The text of this statement was adopted by the members of the ad hoc committee.

We would like to congratulate the people of Azerbaijan on the peaceful polling day. We would like to underline that we have a mandate to observe the polling day, as well as to assess the campaign for the referendum, and we will focus only on these questions, all other relevant questions for this country being part of the monitoring dialogue between the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan, and we invite the authorities to continue their co-operation with the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee and to implement the conclusions and recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

In this context the delegation:

- concludes that the referendum was organised in accordance with the national legislation and the Constitution of Azerbaijan and is considered legal and legitimate;

- notes that the voting process was transparent, well organised, efficient and peaceful throughout polling day, and that no serious violations were observed during the counting process, and that is why we respect the will of the Azerbaijani people;

- considers that the result of the referendum, in favour of adoption of the modifications to the Constitution, expresses the willingness of the people of Azerbaijan to take a step forward towards safe, stable and sustainable development of their country and to target the establishment of a more efficient system of governance and the implementation of more meaningful reforms needed for the country to respond to the democratic and economic challenges it faces;

- regrets that the Azerbaijani authorities did not ask the respected Venice Commission of the Council of Europe to give its opinion on the draft modifications to the Constitution;

- welcomes the decision of the PACE Bureau to ask the Venice Commission for its opinion and takes note of the preliminary opinion of the Venice Commission;

- invites the Azerbaijani authorities to respect the opinion of the Venice Commission concerning relevant laws during the further process of implementation of the modifications to the Constitution;

- hopes that the Azerbaijani authorities will respect the opinion of the Venice Commission in all its aspects – where there is criticism as regards the balance of power and the role of the Parliament, where there is praise in the human rights chapter, and also where there are reservations;

- notes that there was campaigning on the referendum during which both sides – supporters and opponents – were able to present their opinion;

- thinks it would have been more useful if there had been a longer and broader open and public dialogue ahead of the September 26 referendum on modifications to the Constitution, and regrets the lack of proper debate in Parliament, as the international community requested;

- beside polling issues, the mission notes with regret that several activists were detained on different charges during the campaign for the referendum, and observes that – while it is beyond our mandate to interfere in the independent judicial process – we welcome the decision of the Azerbaijani authorities to release some of these activists, and we hope the authorities will continue to follow this path;

- calls for further improvement of the electoral process.

Aleksandar Nikoloski (“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, EPP/CD), head of the delegation
Andrea Rigoni (Italy, ALDE)
Yanaki Stoilov (Bulgaria, SOC)
Dominik Tarczyński (Poland, EC)
Antonio Gutièrrez (Spain, SOC)
Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), co-rapporteur of the Monitoring Committee
Cezar Florin Preda (Romania, EPP/CD), co-rapporteur of the Monitoring Committee